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March 2014

  • March 3, 2014
  • Written by

This winter has been a challenge to say the least.  February in particular has been brutal with the average temperature for the month -20º.  This isn’t counting the wind chill factor.  Soon spring will be here and all will be forgotten and in no time we’ll be bellyaching about mosquitoes and worrying about West Nile virus.

Each year people throughout the United States plant millions of trees through the National Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree for America program.  People should know, these new trees provide vital benefits to the environment: fresh clean air to breathe, life giving oxygen, pure water in our rivers and streams, protection from soil erosion, shade in the summer and windbreaks in the winter, a home for songbirds.  Golf courses, parks and towns have tree programs that provide for all of the above.

Our population benefits from the use of pesticides in everyday life without even thinking about it.  Examples include fungicides in wall paints (in many cases the same ones used on our golf courses) to protect against mildew and moulds; insecticides in our flea and tick collars to protect our pets from aggravating insects; the use of insecticides to protect our population from diseases such as the West Nile Virus.  This is from the Bayer Environmental people.

Robert Vavrek asks if bunkers are hazards or havens.  The very word suggests hazard is is danger, a risk and a place to avoid.  In the Rules of Golf, a “bunker” is a hazard consisting of a prepared area of ground, often a hollow, from which turf or soil has been removed and replaced with sand or the like.  Nowhere in the rules does it state or even suggest that playing conditions within bunkers must be firm, uniform, and consistent from hazard to hazard.  Bunkers are indeed hazards and certainly not havens.

Getting back to the weather in Saskatchewan – we have damn cold weather and sometimes rotten summers and do we complain.  One thing we don’t have is hurricanes.  It’s hard to imagine the devastation these cause, especially to a golf course near to the ocean and gets covered with 3 feet of salt water, not to mention the silt that accumulates on greens, tees, etc.  Somehow superintendents cope.

This winter a golfer asked me where rakes should be placed – in or out of a bunker.  I answered him in the bunker for sure, because if it’s outside  a golfer will for sure step on it, the handle will come up hitting him on the melon probably knocking him out.  The golfer said it made sense to him, thanked me and off he went.  Another satisfied golfer.

World renowned architect, Alister MacKenzie, didn’t really have any regard for greens committees.  In his 1930’s manuscript, The Spirit of St. Andrews, he wrote “The history of most golf clubs is that a committee is appointed, they make mistakes, and just as they are beginning to learn from their mistakes they resign office and are replaced by others who will make greater mistakes.  This goes on and on.  Greens Committees love when the superintendent or even a qualified consultant will give them the answers and corresponding recommendations they desire.

It may be a good idea to review the Rules of Golf on these cold winter nights and evenings.  With a good understanding of the Rules, you then apply them to course marking, course set up and maintenance.  Use the proper terms – it’s flagstick, not pin (television commentators continue to make this mistake and continue to do so despite being continually corrected).  It’s bunker, not trap; through the green not waste bunker or grass bunker.  When the weather finally changes to late spring, play the course you maintain once a week, if possible.  Your green chairman or president would be good playing partners.  Make it known that you understand how to play the game and above all you appreciate the rules.

Last summer at a Saskatchewan Golf Course I heard a golfer literally scream “This is not a legal hole location!” as his ball rolled off the putting surface, the collar and into long grass.  He said or yelled some other words also that fit his ability as a golfer.  What do the Rules say about hole locations?  In reality, there are several factors to consider when determining a hold location, but if it is cut on the putting surface, it’s legal baby.

Thought you may find this interesting.  Jim Cote the old warhorse superintendent who lives in Willow Bunch says there are prehistoric carvings more than 7000 years old showing early Nordic people skiing.  That’s interesting because the oldest ski found in Sweden dates back to 2,500 BC.  That information is almost totally useless.

Your Board of Directors met February 11th at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club.  This meeting was extremely productive with near full attendance.  For your interest the Summer Field Day will be back in Saskatoon in June; The Research Tournament will be in the North the 3rd week of August; the 2014 Fall Wind Up will be in early November 2014 (the first week).  It was suggested we change the format for the Fall Wind Up.  Registration and a series of seminars will be held November 3rd.  This will be followed by a social in the evening.  November 4th seminars will take place in the morning followed by the AGM.  This suggestion by Pierre Vezeau was taken appreciably.

Good news coming from the CGSA Conference and Trade Show is Kyle Kellgren becoming the CGSA’s Vice President.  Congratulations Kyle from all your STA friends.  Meanwhile Pierre Vezeau will replace Kyle as Saskatchewan director.  Pierre will do a great job supporting us at the national level.

A big day is coming up, one that needs special recognition.  Mrs. Campbell and I are going to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary on March 6th.  While I say it’s been 60 years of wedded bliss, Mrs. Campbell says it’s been a long war.

Good news – after being lost for a number of years the original Member of the Year plaque has been found.  It will be updated at the trophy engraving shop.  It will be on display at some of our functions.

Every turf manager has dual roles when delegating tasks.  He is a supervisor and a coach.  Effective leaders or superintendents balance both sides.  Supervision is nothing more than almost mechanically directing and inspecting a subordinates work, but coaching is the more difficult one of teaching and inspiring.

You hear a lot about climate change mostly from people who make big bucks putting the fear of god into us.  Presently we are at the tail end of what is sometimes called the Little Ice Age.  Some causes for these changes of the climate are  1)  Changes in the sun’s energy output  2)  Changes in the shape of the earth’s orbit around the sun from circular to elliptical  3)  Changes in the tilt of the earth’s axis toward and away from the sun.  The two latter factors also result in contrasts between seasons.  4)  The gravitational pull of the sun and the moon on the bulging equatorial regions of the earth cause a wobble like that of a spinning top.  Now listen to this “The last three cycles have different periods varying from 20 to 500,000 years.”

Listen to this – a person’s skill generally gets them hired.  What keeps them employed and helps them advance is their attitude.  Attitudes stem primarily from values – what is important to them.  Ultimately values will show up in an employee’s performance, such as quality of work and dependability.  That came from Harris Plotkin, San Bernardino California.

Superintendents use a range of strategies in locating cups on greens from formal “clock” or “grid” strategies to unstructured “mix it up” viewpoints.  Whatever the strategy, superintendents attention to detail makes the game more enjoyable for golfers and protects turf.

While golf courses are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, their primary function is to serve as a sports arena.  Although most golfers appreciate trees on courses, many do not realize the function that the trees serve.  Trees define the line of play, delineate boundaries and increase the challenge of the course.  The height of their lowest branches may force a low shot.  Trees may be used to “guard” a green, challenging even the most skilled golfer.  Also, trees assist in judging distances, improve the visibility of the ball in flight and provide a welcome respite from the sun.

Michael Hurdzan of Hurdzan Golf Course Design in Columbus Ohio says the strategy of a golf hole is determined by the angle of play.  By changing the tees’ angle of play, designers can make the strategy of an ordinary hole spectacular.

Browsing the internet, I came across an article that said geese fly in a V formation to save energy.  This is a new study which ways that when the geese fly, they leave a wake.  The idea is that another bird can get a boost from an updraft of air in that wake by flying behind the first bird and off to the side.  When a bunch of geese use this trick, they form a V.  I don’t think this is new.  A bigger question in my mind is why the V formation of geese has on side longer than the other side.  A new study, perhaps.

This from CBC News, that pesticide residue was found on nearly half of organic produce.  None of the tests posed a health risk and most of the fresh produce sampled was imported, with only 1/5 of it grown in Canada.  Whatever the pesticides found on organic produce were smaller than that of conventional produce.  Why not wash the produce before serving it?

There is a new golf course in Saskatoon that’s going to open this summer.  It will be unique as it will have 12 holes.  It has at least one fan, a Florida architect named Bill Amick, a veteran designer with more than 40 years’ experience.  He says poor golfers (and there’s lots of them) like the game and don’t want to be brought to their knees playing a par 72 18-hole course.  There are other pluses also – lower green fees, less time to play, beginners will like a smaller course.  Maybe a smaller course would promote the game as a family affair.

The most important conditions that affect turf health on greens are sunlight, air movement, irrigation, and drainage.  Keeping in mind that the grasses used for putting greens are plants that need full light, you need to make sure the green location will have a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of full sunlight a day, and the most important light is morning light.

While speed of play is usually used as the general reason why colored flags and 150 yard indicators are used, there are negatives.  Mainly, they are not part of the game.  Golf requires the ability to think, feel and observe before going through the physical motions of striking a golf ball.  Visual aids eliminate a portion of the game that is still practiced in Scotland, Ireland and other countries.

It’s been said the average golf course has about $300,000 worth of cart paths.  Add maintenance costs each year and you wonder if cart revenue covers this cost in, say, 5 years.  I don’t think many golf courses in our province have cart paths worth that much – maybe one.

This was written 15 years ago by Mark Leslie for Golfdom.  He says North American golfers are spoiled as they continue to demand perfect conditions.  Consequently the cost of developing and renovating will increase, it’s affordability will decrease and we will lose players.  Clearly, simpler golf courses have to be built.  Fifteen years later, guess what’s happened.

The first 18 hole golf course in the USA was in Chicago.  This first in Canada – Victoria, both were established in 1892.  Steel shafts were sanctioned by the Royal and Ancient in 1929.  Prior to that, shafts were made from hickory sticks.  These frustrated golfers for at least 2 Centuries.

I have trouble with these….Green Superintendent, Turf Manager is better, but Greenkeeper is the best.  The Turf Centre, Barn or Turfgrass Facility in my mind isn’t the “shop”.  Walk-behind mowers – does anyone know somebody that would walk in front?  I like “walkers” the best.

How does a living tree tolerate the stress of a freezing winter like the one we are experiencing in Saskatchewan this year?  They will wake up in the spring alive.  It’s a matter of preventing ice formation inside the cells.  To accomplish this, water in the cells of hardy trees is permitted to slowly leave – freezing just outside the cells as crystals of ice between the individual cells.  As water leaves, the dissolved sugars left inside the cell become increasingly concentrated.

In closing, consider this – If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation – you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

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About the STA

  • Saskatchewan's Turfgrass Association, founded in 1979, is a non-profit organization. The S.T.A. was organized by a group of Turfgrass Professionals which has grown to include people from Parks, Golf Courses, Sod Growers, Cities and Commercial Companies.